Monday, May 1, 2017

NY Immigrant Family Unity Project

The New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (NYIFUP) is the first Public Defender program in the Country for Immigrants facing Deportation.

NYIFUP provides free, high-quality Legal Representation to every indigent Immigrant facing Deportation in the City of New York, as well as to detained New Yorkers facing Deportation in the nearby Immigration Courts in New Jersey. NYIFUP aims to support New York’s vibrant Immigrant Community by reducing the unnecessary Detainment and unjust Deportation of Individuals who have strong ties to their communities.

NYIFUP responds to a pressing need for improved access to Legal Services for Non-Citizens facing Deportation in New York. Approximately 1,650 Immigrant New Yorkers each year are unable to afford Counsel in Removal Cases. They include long-time Permanent Residents and Victims of Abuse, Persecution, Violence, and Torture. Before NYIFUP, many New Yorkers were Deported despite Legal Claims to remain in the U.S., simply because they could not afford an Attorney. Studies have found that 97% of Detained Immigrants without Counsel are unsuccessful in challenging their Deportation, and also revealed that access to Counsel can improve the chance of winning a Deportation Case by as much as 1000%.

With funding from the New York City Council, NYIFUP was created as a collaboration of the Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights, The Center for Popular Democracy, Make the Road New York, and the Immigration Justice Clinic of Cardozo Law School. Following a successful pilot year of NYIFUP, New York City Council granted full funding the program in 2014 in an historic and precedent-setting move. NYIFUP, now implemented jointly by The Bronx Defenders, Legal Aid Society, and Brooklyn Defender Services, seeks to increase Court effectiveness and Decrease Detention times for those it represents, thereby saving Taxpayer Dollars, while providing Due Process. By keeping families together, the Project seeks to lower the Social and Economic Costs that would otherwise be incurred by New York City, and State and New York Employers. NYIFUP aims to develop a replicable model for other Jurisdictions around the Country.

New York City Mayor de Blasio's pledge to spend $16 million on Lawyers for Undocumented Immigrants comes with a big catch, and it's got one Legal Service Provider fuming.

De Blasio said the City won't Fund Lawyers for Immigrants facing Deportation if they've been convicted of certain Crimes, the same 170 on which the City cooperates with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Detainers that start the process of Deportation.

"If we believe as a matter of policy and law that's appropriate, we're not going to provide legal services to stop that (deportation)," de Blasio said on WNYC Friday.

The Legal Aid Society, which just two days ago praised the Mayor for announcing the expanded Funding for Legal Services, blasted him for those comments Friday.

"To put any restrictions on this program would be an affront to due process and not ensure that all individuals who are detained and facing deportation are provided with legal counsel," said Sarah Gillman, a Supervising Attorney at Legal Aid.

The City Council spent $6.5 million last year to Fund the NYIFUP, which is staffed by Attorneys from Legal Aid, the Bronx Defenders, and the Brooklyn Defenders, and has provided Legal coverage to all Detained Immigrants facing Deportation, with no screening except regarding their Income.

The Council asked the Mayor's office to baseline that Funding for Legal services, and it went further, bumping it up to $16 million, but with the Mayor's Eligibility caveat. The money wouldn't necessarily go to the NYIFUP, unlike Council Discretionary Money that can go directly to a Provider, it will have to go out to bid.

Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs Commissioner Nisha Agarwal said the Money would allow the City to help more people who haven't been Detained but are facing Deportation for Legal Help, especially key because "in the Trump administration there's really no prioritizing of who they're targeting." "What we are looking at is the more than 8,000 people who are facing deportation as of 2017 numbers, and what we want to do with our dollars is maximize helping as many of those folks prevent deportation as we can," Agarwal said.

But Legal Aid argued that the Rules would Exclude some of the Detained people they've helped under the Council-Funded program. Maria Navarro, Acting Attorney-in-Charge of Legal Aid's Immigration Law Unit, said some of those Convicted of serious Charges and facing Deportation actually turned out to be Citizens, or had their Convictions tossed out. "To not allow us to meet with everyone to be able to assess or determine whether someone is eligible to stay in this country, where many of them have been all of their lives, would be a real outrage," she said.

New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito has no plans to accept de Blasio's stance that the City should not be providing Funds for Legal services to Undocumented Immigrants convicted of one of 170 Crimes.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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